This is Page 2 of Chapter 4 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "Haven of Hope".
I leave the cafeteria after dropping off my tray -- and picking up more Negative Points for not finishing my disgusting lunch -- and loiter outside the mail room. I'm not the only one waiting. It's like the line outside a soup kitchen. I remember standing in one in New York back in the winter of '88, hoping to get something hot to eat. I remember the looks on the faces of the people in that fucking line -- all either bums or addicts or street kids -- just waiting and hoping. Resigned to their fates. I ended up saying 'Fuck it!' and walking off before I got my bowl. I never wanted anyone to see me that needy, that desperate. I would rather go hungry. I'd rather be cold. Marc Gerasi ended up giving me his lunch that day and I ate it in an alley in Little Italy. He offered, and I took it -- but I wouldn't beg. I promised myself that I'd never fucking beg. Never.
So the mail gets handed out. The counselors are there to pick it up. Skip shows up a little late and it kills me how anxious I am until he appears. Like I'm not going to get my letter in time. They have me fucking trained already, like Pavlov's Dog, to salivate on command. It's the same addiction, I swear it is, only a different drug. And they use it to control you.
I follow Skip back to the room. My homophobic roommate, Denny the Redneck, is in there, sitting on the bed and staring into space. He never gets any mail. He doesn't have a photo on his little nightstand. He doesn't seem to have anyone. And he doesn't seem to care. Denny used to be a long-distance trucker before he got hooked on the cocaine and uppers he took to keep himself awake. Denny is also a Risk. That's why we were paired up. Neither of us is allowed to shut the door.
Denny leaves whenever I walk into the room, which is fine with me. He always lets me know how much he doesn't like me, the Queer. The first time that Skip introduced us, Denny recognized me and refused to shake my hand. He thinks being a faggot is something you can catch. He won't undress in front of me, like some fucking virgin debutante. Like I'll be so overcome with lust at the sight of his puny dick that I won't be able to control myself. What the fuck is it about straight guys? The homelier, the more out-of-shape, the more unappealing they are, the more they think some queer is going to be after their flabby ass. Shit! Denny can't even get a woman interested in him, let alone ME, for fucksake! And I tell him that, point blank.
"You could parade around here stark naked with your ass in the air and I wouldn't give you a first look, let alone a second one," I told him right away, just to make things clear.
"You... you better stick to that, faggot!" he stammered nervously.
"Don't fucking flatter yourself!" I said, rolling my eyes.
"Unapproved Language!" he cried. "That's one Demerit! I'll tell Skip!"
"Go call the cops on me, pussy boy. See if I give a shit!" I turned my back on him.
"That a picture of your boyfriend?" he said, making a face.
"Yeah, it is. But don't get too excited looking at him. He's not into ugly, smelly rednecks."
"How old is that kid?" Denny squinted at the photo of Justin. "He looks kinda young."
Now I was fucking steamed. "My partner's age is none of your fucking business. So stay the fuck away from my stuff!"
So Denny is scared shitless of me. He's a weasel, a runt, and a fucking sneak. On my second day in this room -- after they let me out of three days of detox, which I didn't need because I was already clean -- I caught Denny standing next to my bed, holding my picture of Justin in his hand and staring at it. I grabbed his wrist and I told him that I'd kill him if he touched it again. That I'd pound his ugly White Trash face into a fucking pulp. He knows that I mean it.
But I can tell that for some weird reason Denny is still fascinated by my picture of Justin. Maybe even a cretin like him can recognize something beautiful when he sees it. And Justin looks incredibly beautiful in that picture. Yes, beauty must be rare in Denny's gray and dismal world. Because he can't stop glancing at that photo. Can't stop making snarky comments about it, even as he's afraid to go too near it. Mentioning little blond cocksuckers. He should be so fucking lucky! He's never had anyone suck his cock like Justin can. Shit. No one can suck cock like Justin can. But I can't think about that.
Like I say, Denny has no photos at all. He gets no letters. He seems to have no family or anyone else he gives a crap about or who gives a crap about him. When I get mail from Deb or Lindsay or Vic or Tim or Mikey or even a postcard from Jimmy, let alone the letters from Justin, it amazes me to realize just how many people I do have whose pictures I would like to look at if it were allowed. Whose words I want to read. People I care about. It's a revelation to me, who have always felt like I was completely alone in the world for so fucking long. So I guess I'm not so alone after all.
Once Denny splits from the room, Skip makes himself comfortable in the wooden chair and I sit on the bed and wait. First he opens a letter from Deb. It's pretty short. Deb usually writes the same things over and over again. Who came into the diner and what they ordered. What she bought on the Home Shopping Network. What she made when Mikey came over for dinner. It's straightforward stuff but I love hearing it. It tells me that somewhere nothing has changed at all. Life just goes on, normally.
Then there's a postcard from Jimmy. Of the Eaton Centre in Toronto, where he's filming.
Last but not least, Skip opens Justin's letter. It's always the longest letter I get, unless Tim Reilly has written to me. Tim's letters go on for pages, mostly lots of spiritual and inspirational shit, but Tim doesn't write every day like Justin does. Since I told him that Tim was a priest, Skip loves it when I get his letters. He always just skims them and then hands them right over first thing. Skip thinks Tim is a Positive Influence with all his talk about his work with the AIDS Hospice and Dignity, that group of Catholic queers he and Vic belong to. I know that Skip doesn't understand half of what Tim is talking about, but he still thinks it's good for me. I wonder what Skip would think if he knew that Tim is a EX-priest -- and an ex-fuck of mine when I was 17? I wonder if Skip would think he was so great if he realized that good old Father Tim is just another fag?
Skips reads Justin's letter. He takes his time. This is supposed to teach me patience. To teach me how to delay gratification. What it actually does is make me want to murder Skip. It makes me want to rip Skip's fucking head off and grab my letter out of his filthy hands.
He gets to the end of the letter. Sometimes he smiles, but it isn't a nice smile. It's a sickening smile. Looking at his fingers touch the paper, paper on which Justin has written his innermost feelings and fantasies, is like watching this creep putting his hands on my partner. And all I can do is fucking sit here and watch.
Finally, Skip hands over my mail. It wouldn't be so bad if he left me alone for ten minutes, but he doesn't. Now he watches me read. I look at Jimmy's postcard first. It's all about him and his problems, as usual. More complaints about how Chuckie Ranger is upstaging him. Jimmy knew that would happen when he took that fucking role! That is what Chuckie Ranger does -- he upstages people. That's his shtick. So much for Jimmy.
Deb's letter is more of her usual, too. Mainly about what's happening in the neighborhood. But it's comforting to read. Her world is defined by Liberty Avenue, the Liberty Diner, Mikey's comic book store, and Vic's health. But I want to know about these things. The Novotnys are part of my life, too. They are the closest thing I'll ever have to a family and the Deb is the closest thing I've ever had to a real, caring-type mother, so they mean more to me than I can even admit to myself most of the time. Because I know that if my own mother knew I was in this fucking place she'd do exactly what she did when I was 16 and in despair at the Kensington-Welsh Center. Absolutely nothing.
Then I read Justin's latest letter. On the surface, it seems as mundane as Deb's, but it's completely different in my mind. Every event, every word is full of meaning. Full of significance. He went shopping and bought new winter boots. He took the Jeep to the car wash to rinse off the road salt. Jennifer Taylor sold a big house and got a nice fat commission. Wade's mother invited Justin over for dinner again. Gus is getting really big. Daphne broke up with her new boyfriend and started going out again with her old boyfriend. Justin's prints for the Warhol Museum are ready for the exhibit and he's just deciding on the final arrangement. He wants it to flow in a certain way and he's not sure of the best movement of the images. He's such a fucking perfectionist! And that's the way he should be. Perfect.
Then Justin describes how he lit a couple of vanilla candles and stretched out naked on our big bed under the blue lights and stroked himself until he came. Stroked himself while he imagined that I was fucking him. Pretended that we were in England in front of the hearth at Firelands. Imagined that I had him on his hands and knees and was thrusting into him from behind, my hands gripping his slender waist. My hands pulling at his blond hair as he threw his head back and moaned. Imagined that we both came at the same time, falling against each other, laughing, kissing.
"I have a little bit of my come on my fingers, Brian, so I'm going to put it on this letter in place of my signature. It's the only way that I can think to send myself to you. I hope that you are thinking of me and I only wish that I could hear from you. That I could be with you. I'm waiting. It's difficult, but I know that in the end it will be worth it when we can be together again. Love...."
I get so fucking hard while I read this that I can't stand it. While that goddamn Skip sits there and watches me. He knows what I'm reading because he just read it, too. Justin always ends his letters with a detailed fantasy or a description of him jerking off. And fucking Skip is getting off on it. I know he is. And there's not one fucking thing I can do about it now.
I have to wait until lights out and good old Denny, my homophobic roommate, is snoring, before I can go over in my mind what Justin has written and relieve some of the pressure. Then I won't have to look at Skip's smirking face. I only have to picture Justin's face, his eyes pressed shut and his mouth open, his fair hair falling over his forehead as he comes.
I come like a fucking rocket, but I have to stifle the sound. Sex, even with yourself, is another thing that isn't allowed. Fuck that. Fuck it to Hell. When I come I whisper those words that I always say when I come with Justin. I don't always say them out loud, but they're there. I make certain that here, in this fucking hole, I do say them aloud, even if it's quietly. Of course, it doesn't matter. He's not here to hear them. Not here. And I think of all of the times I could have said them, when he could have heard them... and now I'm fucking alone.
Sometimes, in that darkness, I think that Justin doesn't really exist. That I only imagined him. Only dreamed him up out of my fevered fantasies. But then, after the next mail call, I'll hold his latest letter in my hand. Smell it for that trace of his essence that clings to the paper. Touch it, as if touching something that he touched can make our fingers meet. Convince myself that he is really out there and that all of this fucking torture is worth it somehow. If I can really make myself a better person. If I can fucking fix myself. Make myself worthy to be loved by him. That's the only thing that keeps me from killing myself in this fucking Haven of Hell Hole. That's what makes me a Risk. But it's also what is keeping me alive.
Continue on to "The Heir".
©Gaedhal, January 2004.
Posted January 27, 2004.